Skip to main content

Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 17 February [188]9

Just been out for a long sleigh ride and had dinner—roast turkey, bread sauce, a boiled onion and apple pie—mighty good. Sorry to say it is thawing here, likely to lose our snow unless it mercury drops between now and midnight.

All quiet, we are getting ready to start—hope to get off wednesday morning (am pretty sure we shall not get off tuesday) & see you thursday. Nothing new in any direction, I shall probably not write again (before leaving)

Affectionately R M Bucke

Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. Horace Traubel's note, "see | notes | Feb 19 | 1889," appears in the upper right-hand corner of the recto. The reference is to Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, February 19, 1889. The note "TO HT" is written in an unidentified hand. [back]
  • 2.

    This letter has been misclassified as being from Bucke to Traubel. It is, in fact, from Bucke to Whitman. According to Loyzynsky, there is both internal and external evidence for his attribution; see Artem Loyzynsky, ed., The Letters of Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1977), 108–109.

Back to top